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Friday, July 17, 2009


It's feeding time for the crows. I sliced half an apple into however many slices that is, a dozen or so, threw them out the front door into the grass where I can see out the window. Every day it's the same crows, the hen and her five chicks. Our friend, the brown-headed one is hard to tell from the others now except that he continues to be the one that walks a certain path close by the porch when all the slices are gone and he's searching for one that might have been missed. He's the one least wary of the house. I can tell the hen by the way she creeps up on the slice like it's about to get her. She approaches it half sideways, reaches out and picks it up and jumps back, then she hops, two feet at a time, to a place in the driveway gravel away from the others. Our friend continues to heckle her about feeding him. I saw her give him an apple slice a little while ago. He's the only one left that pesters her with open beak and the drone of a call the young ones have.

When I was a kid, the word civilization had a great big meaning for me. I knew how to define it for a test, but couldn't imagine the whole thing. When it's something with a definititon, it seems to be a still object, like coffee-table, but civilization is one of those nouns that has a life of its own, like horse. We think we know what horse means, but I sure don't. When I look at a horse I wonder how something that big allows something as puny as me to control it. I don't ever believe I can control a horse. Like I don't believe I could ever control a motorcycle. Or a chainsaw, for that matter. These things have lives of their own that require understanding and respect. A living being has so much complexity to it, I don't believe there is ever any knowing somebody else, knowing a dog, knowing a child, knowing someone old.

People I know seem as vast as the universe to me. I'll take my friend Lynn Worth, like picking a name from a hat, this time a mental hat. I've known Lynn probably 20 years. I call her my friend because I believe she's in my corner, and I'm in her corner. I know what to say not to make her mad, and I know what to say that will make her mad. That says I know her a little bit, but only about 100 billionth of what there'd be to know about her to say I know her. Lynn is at the fiddler's convention in Sparta this weekend and the latter half of the week. She's one of the original organizers and works with it every year. Lynn is the kind of friend who supports her friends. You might say, in that way she's an active friend as opposed to a passive friend.

Lynn has a small camping trailer and a pickup. She goes around to fiddlers conventions all summer, making music with her friends she's known for many a year and has a ball. Lynn is somebody who will be known in her 70s as one of the great old-time musicians of NC, if she's not already. She doesn't see it, but it will be that way. The world of old-time musicians is the world she was born for. She can pick the fire out of a banjo too. She can make a fiddle do its thing as well. She's banjo picker and vocalist with Appalachian Mountain Girls and plays fiddle with the Phoenix Mountain Band. At the Hillbilly Show, she and her feller Eddie sang a couple of Carter Family songs as Sara and AP. She has sung some June Carter songs at the Hillbilly Show and one other, I think it might have been Kitty Wells. She didn't try to imitate their singing, just sang the songs well.

Lynn told me how her guitar got her through her freshman year in college way off in Chapel Hill alone in the world in the crowd. That year you might say she bonded with her guitar, then started learning other instruments over time such that she can now play everything in an old-time band. And very well. She played bass for a long time with Appalachian Mountain Girls until Amy Michaels, banjo and vocals, left the band. Lynn stepped up to the mic with her banjo and has been singing for the band ever since. "Funniest sight I ever seen / sixteen chickens and a tamborine," is one they have fun with, and Grandpa Jones's Old Rattler.

Lynn is a mountain musician from the inside out. One of her subjects she gets emphatic about is back when the hippies and folklorists came through here in the 70s recording the old boys, Kyle Creed, Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Dan Tate, Wade Ward, Charlie Higgins, and so on and so on. They were in high awe of mountain music tradition and waxed artfully academic about it, but they paid no mind to the younger generation of mountain musicians, the ones coming on who are carrying the music in their generation. The folklorists regarded them almost the same as pretenders, paid them no mind at all. That told her, and me, they weren't real. It was a style thing. And we both agree it's a great thing they did to get the older folks recorded before they died out. The hippie musicians didn't understand mountain people and mountain people didn't understand them, meaning they only co-existed musically. Each one fueled by very different inebriates. One over here, one over there. Both illegal.

I feel satisfied I've given you a brief outline of Lynn, who she is, though it's next to nothing where the whole Lynn is concerned. When I look at the great vastness of Lynn as a human being, feeling like I know her, I realize if Lynn were a cake, about all I'd know would be a fingertip of icing. There's enough in that little bit to tell me what I don't know abut Lynn is as as good as what I know, or believe I know. One thing I know about Lynn that is in every aspect of her life, is that she's true and doesn't have any time for that which is not true. She's a woman who stands on her own feet firmly. New Agers would say she's grounded. And she likes to watch lift-offs of the space shuttle on the NASA website. She befriends homeless lost dogs.

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